Hey, media, you aren’t the story.
Consider the latest media induced hysteria: the idea that Trump pardoned Arpaio and fired Gorka during Hurricane Harvey to mitigate media attention. The media’s implication is:
– President’s shouldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time by multitasking during a crisis.
– The public is too stupid to not tune in to 24/7 coverage of a hurricane.
Feel welcome to substitute any given crisis in the above and the media’s equations still come out the same. But yes, the media expects every American to drop everything and sit like a zombie before their ceaseless coverage of whatever the latest hot item might be, hurricane or otherwise.
Once the crisis subsides, you are supposed to tune in to subsequent coverage exploring racial and gender-oriented aspects of the crisis. I’ll bet you an adult beverage that between now and Christmas a news outlet will run a story about race, gender, or being gay during Hurricane Harvey. If we are really lucky, the story will focus on a gay black chick and her struggle as an activist following Hurricane Harvey.
If the media had their way, Trump would have cleared his schedule. He’d have put up a cot in the Oval office. He’d be micromanaging Harvey around the clock complete with hourly press conferences to fuel the 24/7 media cycle because…
The media thinks they are part of the story. The media thinks they have a role to play in Hurricane Harvey even though they are all in New York offices well clear of the storm’s wrath. Again, insert any given crisis here and the equation is the same. Unless of course the story is one that only affects New Yorkers, in which they seem to have no problem annoying all of us non-New Yorkers with their story.
How many times has “breaking news” consisted of something snarling traffic in New York or Los Angeles? Pretty sure the media isn’t treating snarled traffic in Omaha the same way. To date I’ve never seen a breaking news alert worrying me that a jack-knifed tractor trailer blocked traffic headed out of Nashua, New Hampshire – but put the tractor trailer near Manhattan and the media will inject themselves into the story as fast as they can:
Male Host: Traffic seems to be backed up for miles.
Female Host: Yes, it does. I know that area. Lots of young professionals live there.
Male Host: Will they be able to get to work?
Female Host: I don’t know. Many use the subway. You know, they take the A train to the Z train and the 123 bus over to the 426.
Male Host: Ah, the 426. I remember that route from my early days working for a local affiliate here in New York.
Female Host: Do you now?
Male Host: (chuckles)
Female Host: There’s a lot of shall we say, ladies of the night, along the 426’s route are there not?
Male Host: Well, there are and I tell you, back in the day, I used to purchase services from more than a few.
Female Host: (false expression of surprise)
Male Host: I’m kidding, of course.
Female Host: You’re kidding, I’m sure, but I bet they never charged you the full rate as newsie newsish of the newsiest stallion you are.
Male Host: Well, co-host, I’d say ask your mom, but that would imply she was there.
Both: (laughter into the commercial break)
That’s one – but not the only – reason why the media can’t grasp Trump. The media expects Trump to play his Presidency according to the narratives they are familiar with. The media is immature. They need protagonists and antagonists in their coverage. They need for everything Trump does to fall in by rote with the plot previously executed by other Presidents. They need fuel for the bonfires they ignite. And Donald Trump doesn’t care for any of that.
In other words, the media expect to be the choreographers but Trump won’t let them because Trump is Trump. Trump does what Trump needs to do, media be damned. The media aren’t a part of his story although they are something he trolls with resplendent results – and without exception the media remains too self-absorbed to even realize when he trolls them.
If the media were to return to their role of simply reporting events as they occur – something we used to call journalism – perhaps Americans would trust them once again. There’s more than enough material out there to report on. Way more. The media just needs to stop looking in the mirror to find it.
Image: CC BY 2.0; Excerpted from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/unfccc/5600066127